school systems

10 of the best and worst school systems

Analyists from WalletHub determine "2017’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems."

For the majority of US families, public education is the only option for their child’s education. But the quality of public school systems varies widely from state to state and is often a question of funding. Public elementary and secondary education dollars traditionally flow from three sources: the federal, state (state governments contributing nearly half of public-school funding) and local governments. According to EdCentral, states contribute nearly as much as local governments, while the federal government supplies the smallest share of the total. Some researchers have found that more resources — or taxes paid by residents — typically result in better school-system performance.

Because of the variances in funding for public school systems, the personal-finance website WalletHub recently conducted an analysis of 2017’s States with the Best & Worst School Systems.

Unlike other research that focuses primarily on academic outcomes or school finance, however, WalletHub says their analysis take a more comprehensive approach, accounting for performance, funding, safety, class size and instructor credentials.

To determine the top-performing school systems in the US, WalletHub’s analysts compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 21 measures of quality and safety. The data set ranges from pupil-teacher ratio to dropout rate to median standardized-test scores. [For full methodology, click here.]

The Top 10 School Systems

1. Massachusetts

2. New Jersey

3. New Hampshire

4. Wisconsin

5. Vermont

6. Virginia

7. Minnesota

8. Connecticut

9. Iowa

10. Maine

(Next page: The 10 worst school systems; more in-depth data)

The Bottom 10 School Systems

1. Louisiana

2. New Mexico

3. West Virginia

4. District of Columbia

5. Mississippi

6. Arkansas

7. Alaska

8. Alabama

9. Oregon

10. Tennessee

Best vs. Worst

  • Iowa has the lowest dropout rate, 9.2 percent, which is 3.4 times lower than in the District of Columbia, registering the highest at 31.5 percent.
  • Vermont has the lowest pupil-teacher ratio, 10.55, which is 2.2 times lower than in California, registering the highest at 23.58.
  • Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin share the highest median SAT score, 613.33, which is 1.5 times higher than in the District of Columbia, registering the lowest at 396.67.
  • Massachusetts has the lowest share of high school students who reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property, 4.06 percent, which is 2.6 times lower than in Arkansas, registering the highest at 10.60 percent.
  • The District of Columbia has the lowest share of high school students who were bullied online, 7.86 percent, which is 2.7 times lower than in Idaho, registering the highest at 21.08 percent.

To view the full report and your state or the District’s rank, visit:

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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